Beyond sex and devotions to Intimacy

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Intimacy has been a large part of our conversations lately.  We are planning to attend a Love After Marriage conference soon and have also been preparing for a long separation due to his job.  In the midst of work, travel, study, chores and parenting we have also been feeling the need for a new and closer relationship with God.  Intimacy.

We have been reminded that intimacy with God is so much more than devoting time. Sometimes it’s easy to go through the motions.  We are taught that marriage is a model of our relationship with God.  Often routines can become habits without heart, good morning greetings and kisses goodbye.

Sadly, as many have discovered sex can just be sex and not intimacy.  Likewise, you can read the Word, raise your hands in worship, make known your prayer requests, or seek His wisdom for the current crisis.   It can just be going through the motions. You can do all that and never have Intimacy.

My amazing husband shared a revelation with me last night.  He was reading in Matthew and a familiar verse jumped out at him.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’  Matthew 7:22-23

Intimacy has nothing to do with how much we DO for God.  We can even operate out His power, prophesy and do miracles.  We can DO and DO and DO.  We can even seek to know all we can about Him and have a dedicated devotional life.  But did you see what He said?

“I never knew YOU!”

photo credit
He wants to know us.  He wants to have intimacy.  He wants us to open up and SHARE ourselves with Him.  Of course, God knows everything about us, even the number of hairs on our head at any given moment.  But His desire is to go beyond his omniscience and engage with what we want to share with Him.  He wants to know us.  He wants intimacy.  Like our own desire in relationship is that our lover would bare his soul with vulnerability, trust and honesty as we do the same.  No coercion, no agenda, no pressure.  Just Love.

I agree with Donald Miller’s reflection from Searching for God knows what  “I have sometimes wondered if the greatest desire of man is to be known and loved anyway.”  I believe in this bed of intimacy is the greatest fulfillment we’ll ever experience.

Are you willing to bare your heart, soul and spirit to the greatest Lover you will ever know?  He is too.

Copyright ©2012


Too Tired to Find Rest?

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

It’s been a long day.  After a full nights sleep, you rose early, labored at the office for 8 hours or more.  Maybe you got a chance to squeeze in a workout.  You come home to dinner, time with the family and their night time routine.  You have at least an hour of required reading you need to get done, not to mention spend some quality time with your spouse.  Did I mention you’re exhausted?  All you really want to do is put your feet up and find a good movie to veg out to.  You don’t have time for a movie so you settle for 15 minutes of a a show on your DVR before forcing yourself to your books.  This is a typical day.  You desire a feel-good moment with no responsibility and a break for your mind.  But what you really need is rest.  

Not sleep, but REST!

We all need it.  Our days are full and seem to be getting fuller.  This isn’t the first place you’ve read that the more technology we acquire to make life easier the busier we become.  In the part of the world I live in it’s popular to work and be busy.  It’s not uncommon for someone to work 60, or more, hours a week.  Not everyone has a family life, but if you do, these relationships take time and energy.  (Hopefully, they are fulfilling and life-giving relationships but they still take energy.)

If you are a stay-at home type then you might be more tired because you don’t leave your “job.”   Cleaning, cooking, planning, shopping, managing, loving, educating, did I mention cleaning.  You get the idea.  There is much to do.  We have friends, volunteer work, ministries and homes to maintain.  We’re busy, we’re full, we’re tired.

Are you not busy?  Maybe bored?  That’s another kind of exhaustion that also manages to drain us of energy.

Yet it seems like so much effort to “come to Him”.  We feel too tired to receive the rest He promises.  It may seem like one more thing to add to the to-do list.  And the additional “work” drives us away to the remote control, the refrigerator or the bed.

We are bid to come to a promised place of rest.  A place free of burden and worry.  A refreshing place of peace.  This place is full of everything we need: strength, healing, wisdom, joy, comfort, vision, creativity, LOVE.  It’s where dreams are imagined and hope is born.

You don’t have to climb a mountain to find it

Lazy Mountain - Palmer Alaska

or look miles away in some meadow of flowers.

Paradise Valley - Washington

 You don’t have to travel to an island’s distant shore

The shore of Shemiya - The most Western island of North America

 or paddle across an abandoned lake.

Nancy Lakes - Alaska
Nancy Lake - Alaska

It’s only as far away as our next deep breath.

Media, food nor pillows (nor any other go-to subsistence) will ever give you the rest and comfort you are really needing.  It may get you through.  It may help you cope one more hour or one more day but it will never get you there.  So, how do you get there?  How do we come to Him?

 How do we enter His Rest?

Desire REST over coping.

Take the drive and strength that we use to get things done and lay it aside.  We have to take off our self-reliance and self-sufficiency like a coat.  This is one of the hardest steps for me.  Sometimes I feel like if I take off this “coat” I’ll fall apart – as if this coat is what’s holding me together.  Jeremiah 9:23-24

Get quiet.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

Have confidence that with your desire for Rest, the removing of self-sufficiency and becoming quiet that He will meet you.  The place of rest is not a location it’s a communion.  “In quietness and trust (confidence) is Your strength” Isaiah 30:15 (italics taken from KJV)

Lean on Him.  Allow God to be the one to hold you together.  Depend on Him for your strength, wisdom, and joy. Proverbs 3:5

Love on Him and receive Love.   Share with Him, worship, listen, be filled.  Psalm 36:7-10

This can be done in a few minutes or over long periods of time.  Rest can be found in moments.  He wants to give you rest.  He wants to remove your worry and stress.  He wants you to be whole, have vision and be filled with His strength.  He wants to refresh you.

I am including a song below.  The video is not much to look at – which is fine because you might do better to have your eyes closed.  May it help you find that place of rest and remind you of His great love and promises that abound in His presence.

Copyright ©2012

How I Learned to Trust

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My relationship with Jonathan changed my life.  Not just because we got married and we move all over the globe but because we fell in love.  Now I don’t mean that fabulous euphoric falling in love you have at the beginning (although we have that too!) I mean we fell into love.  Fall is really the wrong word because it sounds so unintentional.  Deciding to pursue love with Jonathan grew me like no other relationship I’d known.  Loving him and being loved by him changed me and every time I changed I learned more about my relationship with God.

When Jonathan and I met I was a fully independent, established career woman. I owned a house, had a job, fabulous friends and a great church.  We ‘fell in love’ got married and started living life together.  When Jonathan first encouraged me to go part time I was working as a nurse in a busy labor and delivery unit.  The same one I mentioned last week where nobody got to eat lunch.  The job was very stressful.  My days off felt like physical and emotional recuperation days instead of free days for recreation or working on our home.  I had been wanting to go part time for a while but when he mentioned it a hidden part of me resisted.  I accepted his offer anyway and spread the news excitedly but whenever he would mention it to people I cringed inside.  He would be talking to someone on the phone saying that I was going to go part time so that I would have more time to oil paint and write.  And I would wave my hand and make shushing faces to encourage him to shut up.  Later I would ask him, “Why are you telling people that?”  He would be confused – “What do you mean?”  I’d say, “Don’t tell people that.  You make me sound lazy!”  After a couple of weeks I started to wonder if he had ulterior motives for wanting me to work less.  Did he think I didn’t do a good enough job keeping up the house or having meals prepared?  Was my being stressed out – stressing him out and he needed it to stop?  Did he want me to be more financially dependant upon him?

After overhearing yet another conversation where he was ‘bragging’ about my going part-time – I lost it.

I asked him straight up: “WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO GO PART-TIME?”

Again confused he said matter-of-factly. “So that you can have more time to paint and write.”

“No – I mean why do YOU want me to go part-time?  What do you get out of it – what’s your real motive?”

He set aside the strainer for the pasta that was nearly done.  Moved towards me and gently put his hands on my waist, “Baby, I think you are truly gifted in writing and painting and you love doing those things.  Your work seems to stress you out and take away from the time that you could spend doing things that you love and that God has gifted you to do.  I Love You – and I love seeing you do the things that you love.  That’s it.”

I started to silently cry because I believed him.  I had no idea how to interpret this.  I had no frame of reference for this.  I just couldn’t believe that someone, a man, loved me this much and was truly looking for my best interest.  He wanted what was best for me, he wanted what was going to make me happy and feel fulfilled.  He wanted to see me enjoying life and my gifts and loving the way I spend my time.  I had never personally experienced such a selfless unconditional act of love.  I was overwhelmed.

My relationship with Jonathan was unlike any other, yet I still had a hard time fully trusting.  Way in the back of my heart I kept waiting for the inevitable other shoe to drop.  The tell tale sign that indeed he was a heart-breaking, selfish betrayer just like the rest of them.  But day by day, week in and week out it never happened.  Over and over again I was surprised with honesty, predictability, dependability.  Don’t get me wrong – he isn’t perfect – of course, there were times I was disappointed or times when I expected one thing and got another.

Regardless, Jonathan showed me that even though he wasn’t perfect that he could be trusted.  This isn’t a praise session for my husband (although he is amazing) but rather a statement about me.  I had come through life protecting the lie that no one is going to take care of me except me.  I thought, “You have to look out for number one.  If you don’t take care of yourself no one will.  Right?”  I never thought anyone else would ever care for me enough to truly want what’s best for me.  But he did (and still does.)  It’s amazing!

Experiences and hurts from our past can hinder the intimacy in our current relationships.  The hurt I carried kept me from trusting.  Lack of trust kept me from sharing my heart with Jonathan.  I dealt with the past experiences that caused the hurt and forgave those who hurt me but I hadn’t faced the core beliefs that kept me from trusting. Once I believed that Jonathan sincerely cared for me I began to open up and give him more of myself.  Not all people are trustworthy of sharing your heart.  It’s healthy to have boundaries to protect yourself from unsafe people.

However, it’s very important to note that God is not unsafe.  I’ve written before that it is easy for us to ascribe to God attributes of our parents or other authority figures but unless they were Godly attributes they are not true of Him. God is not a man.  He IS perfect! He is always honest, always faithful, always loving; He never fails. I had to learn to be honest first with myself and then with God.  I came to Him with willingness and He provided the clarity I needed to begin to see myself and Him properly.  I cannot express how wonderful it is to experience True Love.  He wants what’s best for me, He wants what’s going to make me happy and feel fulfilled.  He wants to see me enjoying life and the gifts He gave me and loving the way I spend my time. God’s love is Perfect.

Recommended Material:

Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud

A must see short Q&A video on Building Trust by “Loving On Purpose”

Divine Design

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Love.  True Love.  Everlasting Love. Unconditional Love.  Pursuing Love.  It’s what we live for.  John Donne wrote, “No man is an island…” Although written in the 17th century Donne’s popular poetic phrase rings of a truth that began at creation: no person is designed to be alone.  We are all in need of connection and each connection, although different, has a purpose.   A love relationship was the cause of our first breath.

This post is an introduction into an ongoing look at the Purpose of Relationships.  I have added a category titled “Purpose of Relationships” so you can follow the teachings in this series.  However they will also be listed in the “Tablets to Run With” category.  I hope you enjoy and learn as much as I have in preparing them.  

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

In the midst of speaking this magnificent universe into existence, Almighty God made one being above all others.  Man was made in the very image of God.  He was made to be like a shadow or a reflection of Himself.  God provided everything for man, named Adam, to discover his Creator.  However, designed to bring God glory, man was found to be incomplete.  God created the universe and said that it was good. He created man and said that it was also good.  The World was untainted, Adam was pure and his relationship with his Creator was personal but God said that something was missing from man on the Earth.  He said,

It is not good for the man to be aloneGenesis 2:18a

I believe the trait that was missing from man was a certain depth of intimacy in his relationship with God. Adam was learning about God, about His Creativity, His Kindness, His Wisdom, His Dominion but he was missing something.  There was an aspect of God he could not see.  Although God knew it would be futile, a search was made on the Earth for a creature that would be suitable for the task of helping man understand the Creator and the depth of His Love but none was found.  Therefore, God created a companion for Adam, her name was Eve.   Man needed a relationship with another person made in the image of God.  Without this other relationship mankind lacked knowledge and understanding about his Creator.

Let me explain: God always had relationship within Himself; intimacy with the Trinity of Himself, fellowship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Man was not as complex a creature since he was made only to be one person.  So God created a like creature for man to have relationship.  Man was designed to discover and intimately know the Almighty God but he couldn’t do it alone.  He needed Eve, a third person if you will.  He needed to have at least one triangle of relationship: God, Adam and Eve, like a trinity.

(Hopefully this is making sense and you’re as excited as I am.  Like I said this is an introduction.  A foundation actually and all the little pieces fit together one on top of the other.  Keep reading!  If you’re not excited yet you will be!)

The creator God is a vast, dynamic, incomprehensible being.  His glory is inexpressible. Building on what we discovered about Abel’s blood last week I would like to suggest that we are all created with an unique ‘implant’ from God.  Knit into each one of us is a piece of His glory.  Each one a different piece because one person alone cannot contain the entirety of God’s glory.  The more we walk as who we are called to be and the more we live in our destiny the more we place His Glory on display (2 Corinthians 3:18 – more on this in another post.)  C.S. Lewis put it this way:

There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs’, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully.”  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) p.225

When we are in relationship a dynamic happens that cannot exist when we are alone.  I am not saying that alone we can’t have relationship with God, nor know him intimately.  I am not saying that if we were stranded on a deserted island we would be unable to find and know God.  But I am suggesting that there are aspects of God we cannot know unless we are in relationships.  Adam needed Eve.  You might say Adam was even created to need Eve, that we are created to need each other.  In fact, that IS what I am saying.  We NEED each other.  We need relationships and connections and love – it’s part of our divine design!  We need each other to better know God, to know ourselves and to know our purpose.

Because this is a post and not a book – and I could keep going and going – I’ll stop here for now.  I hope you will continue to follow these teachings as I add more on this topic. As always your feedback (or questions) are appreciated.

Will you let me love you?

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Before we were married, Jonathan called me one day at work to say ‘hi.’  I was working as a nurse in a busy labor and delivery unit.  That day was especially busy; I don’t think any of the staff had a chance to eat lunch.  When Jonathan called I was in the midst of a pile of paperwork following the delivery of a baby.  He was across town somewhere; I told him how busy I was and he asked if he could bring me anything.  I politely declined stating I didn’t need anything and besides it was too far to come from where he was.

English: Coffee for Love
Image via Wikipedia

In my head I fantasized how nice it would be to have a Starbucks coffee – full of calories and comfort! Immediately after my hidden daydream he offered to bring me my favorite coffee drink.  Yes!  That sounded so nice and I really wanted it!

But I said, “Oh, no, that’s ok…I won’t even have time to see you if you come.”

He said that that was fine and he could just drop it off to me.

Again I refused stating how far it was for him to come for such a short visit.

I thought I was being practical.

He continued to offer and during my lengthy decline he interrupted me and said,

“Debra…Will you LET me love you?”

I was stunned.  I couldn’t think of anything to say.

Jonathan was trying so hard to do something thoughtful and special for me and I thought I was trying to be considerate of his effort.  But really what I was doing was discounting his willingness to serve me and refusing his love.

I didn’t want him to come because it felt selfish and I didn’t want to inconvenience him.  I didn’t want him to be generous to me.  Even though I really wanted to be pampered, the effort seemed like too much trouble.  I was saying, “No that’s fine, I’m ok, I don’t need this, I don’t need your gift, I don’t need you.  I’ll do just fine on my own.”  Driving across town 45 minutes to bring me a cup of coffee was easy for him.  It was something simple he could do that he knew I would enjoy and appreciate and I refused him. I didn’t want to NEED him. I didn’t want to grow to depend on him or his love. I didn’t want…to get hurt.

It was difficult for me to receive because then I felt indebted.  Owing someone felt so vulnerable.  It seemed easier to depend on myself because then I wouldn’t owe anyone.  I’d have only myself to blame when things went wrong and I’d never have to be disappointed when people let me down.  In my deceived  mind this protected people from my frustration and disappointment and freed them of being responsible for meeting my needs (although secretly I was frustrated and disappointed with them not meeting my needs anyway). Unfortunately this type of thinking inhibits most if not all chances for true intimacy.  By not allowing others to help or serve me or simply give unconditionally to me I refuse the love I so desperately desire.  Instead of protecting others and myself I end up cutting myself off from the very thing I need.

I was taken aback when Jonathan asked me if I would let him love me. Let him? Until then I hadn’t realized that I was responsible for the love I received.

Left without reason to refuse him I allowed him to bring me the coffee.  Later I found out that by allowing him to do small things like that for me made him feel loved because I was receiving the love he was giving me and that by not receiving it he felt deflated, unloved, and rejected.

This event provided a chance for great growth and intimacy between Jonathan and I.  We both learned so much.  But the chance to grow in intimacy didn’t stop with our relationship because in the same way I was refusing Jonathan I was refusing God.

“Oh God, that’s ok, I’m fine, I don’t need your grace, your love your blessings.  I will work and strive and work some more and show you that I can do it all by myself and then you’ll be so proud of me!”

Boy, did I have it ALL WRONG!  In fear of rejection, abandonment and disappointment I refused the love, help, and blessings of God.

How easily we refuse His love.  It’s not difficult for God to bless us.  He wants to.  He’s not waiting for us to earn or deserve it.  In fact, when we were wretched, doing our own thing without a care in the world for his Love or His plan – He offered His greatest gift to us.  If while we were wretched he showered us with love how much more now that we are redeemed? (Romans 5:10) God is extravagant and desires to see us revel in His generosity.

It’s not inconvenient for Him and it’s not too much trouble.  He has gone to every effort to extend His love and is practically screaming, “WILL YOU LET ME LOVE YOU?”

The Greatest Man I Never Knew

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The ties to family don’t seem to be as important to people as they used to; but whether we recognize it or not we all need the love of a father.
Father & Son

While living in Texas back in the mid 1990s’s I was moved to send my Dad a copy of  a Reba McEntire album for Father’s Day.  At the time I had been doing some soul searching and I heard her song, The Greatest Man I Never Knew.  The lyrics stuck a chord in me. (I am not a huge country music fan – but like I said – at the time I was living in Texas…what can I say.)

I realized that Dad and I had what I would call an “administrative” relationship.  We could talk about how to buy a house or fix a toilet or how I was doing in school.  But we never talked about anything that really mattered. It saddened me that we didn’t have a heart to heart connection. I had a lot of anger and disappointment about my childhood.  I felt abandoned.  But something deep inside me had to believe he did the best he could as a parent with what he had been given.  Regardless, we didn’t have a real relationship.  The truth was I didn’t think he loved me, or maybe he didn’t even like me.

So I sent him the album and a week or so later I got a phone call.  The conversation started generically but then he said he had received the album and listened to it.  He said he couldn’t understand all the words of the song but then he said,

“Are you under the impression that I didn’t love you?”  I was caught off guard, not sure I was ready for the conversation I hoped for.

I paused and then said, “Well, Dad…you never said it.”  It was quiet and then I could hear him choking up on the line.

Then he said with tears, “Debra, for all the times I never said it – I love you, I love you, and I love you!”

We were both crying and I told him I loved him too.

Over the years and with much effort our relationship has grown.

Dad and me on King's River in Alaska

My Dad and I recently talked about the above exchange and he shared with me that when I told him I didn’t think he loved me he was “blown away!”  He said out of all the kids he said I had so much opportunity. (There’s eleven of us and I’m the baby.) I realized then that he showed me love by doing his best to provide me with opportunity. I agreed that was probably true. But I told him that what I need most of all is to know that my father loves me; not because I am successful, self sufficient, smart or pretty but simply because I am his! He looked at me with tears in his eyes and with a nod – I knew he did.

Unlike the person in Reba’s song I had this wonderful conversation with my father while he was living.  Not everyone has this opportunity, and sadly some fathers aren’t open to it. But we all still need it – what we need to know without a shadow of a doubt is that we are loved.

The quality of our relationships help define our lives.

I know, for me, having these moments with my father changed my life and how I saw myself. This connection also began a change in how I saw my heavenly father. It’s common for us to ascribe to God the personality and characteristics of one or both of our parents but most often this does not give us an accurate view of who He really is.

No matter how many times I heard that God loved me I didn’t really start believing it until after this encounter with my dad, when I started to believe, I mean really believe that I was lovable. And until my identity was really shaken (a story I’ll share in another post) the knowledge of the love of God remained foggy and uncertain.

Now I am thrilled to know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made,* that even if I do nothing or write nothing (or am just plain rotten) I am lovable.  And nothing – not my mistakes, my present, nor my future can ever change that.*  God loves.  God loves me. God loves you.  Ask Him to reveal to you how He loves you and how amazing you are – He will and you will never be the same!

His is the Father’s love that changes everything!

I would encourage every reader to search their heart about the quality of their relationship with their dads and, if possible, reach out to develop a deeper relationship. It was a scary and vulnerable risk of pain and disappointment for me to reach out to my dad. A risk I learned was worth taking.  But even if the outcome had not been so positive the risk would have been worth it because I would have acted in honesty from the heart. Love never fails.*


*Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” (NIV)

*Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present, nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can ever separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)

*I Corinthians 13:4-8a “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (NIV)

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